Our first employee who became a veterinarian now works for us as an associate. She is very competent with small animals. She avoids cattle and seems to have the same dread for them that I have for five-pound Chihuahuas.
Sadly, it’s my fault. When she worked for us in high school and in undergrad college we had no haul-in facilities, so our busy cattle practice was all-ambulatory.
I was younger and enjoyed the challenge of working in variable quality facilities, often having to rope and tie cattle to anything handy to work on them. (Tip: Never tie a cow to your truck. If nothing stout enough to restrain an adrenaline-charged bovine is handy, use the owner's truck. That will keep your truck body repairs down while keeping damage in the cow's family.)
Anyway, I nearly always went by myself, leaving "T" to help wife and fellow vet Polly around the clinic.
"T" was accepted to vet school in January or February of 1992. She was elated and we were proud of her. Thinking ahead to her future first as a vet student, then later as a veterinarian, she began seeking wider exposure to the things we do for a living. She mentioned she had never seen a bovine caesarian and asked to go on the next call.
After several false starts a call came in about 2 p.m. one sunny February to go to a dairy where a Holstein heifer was having difficulty. Since dairy cows are generally more placid than beef cows, I thought it would be the perfect call to take her on.
A 20-mile drive got us to the dairy. There she was, hock deep in mud, looking miserable as only a Holstein can, bellowing disconsolately at each ineffective contraction, with a hump in her back. The owner had injured his back and was of no help.
The heifer wouldn't drive but we got her roped and somehow moved her to more solid ground. "T" was eager though inexperienced and we cast the heifer, stretched her out and performed a c-section. She was a very big heifer and the calf was also large and we both worked very hard getting the job done.
About this time, roughly 4 p.m., a neighbor stopped by -- I thought to watch -- but he had the same problem and asked us to stop by when we were done. I said OK and placed "T" on the cow’s neck while I undid the ropes. One rope, a nylon lariat rope, was fouled under the cow and I gave a mighty heave. The rope shot out from under the cow and the knotted end struck "T" between the running lights and knocked her silly for a second or two. She grumbled a little, rubbed the reddened knot between her eyes, and we went to the neighbors.
He had a little black horned heifer that might have weighed 675 pounds in a little chicken-wire pen behind his house. Except for her horn confirmation she could have passed for a goat. Again, no facilities We roped, cast and stretched her and were done about dusk.
We were tired but looking forward to a warm meal and a hot shower. The car phone rang. It was another dystocia 30 miles from where we were. We got there at dark-thirty, just as it began to rain. The temperature started to drop rapidly and the wind picked up from the north.
Capture and restraint were not a problem this time, since the owner had her down after trying unsuccessfully to deliver the calf himself.
Though down, the Brangus cow was plenty mad and kept trying to get somebody, anybody. We were soaked to the skin and shivering by the time we finished the third c-section of the day. "T" saw lots of c-sections that day but for reasons I cannot fathom, has avoided cows ever since.